Pet Health

Urinary Tract Health: A Guide for Cat Owners

Urinary tract disorders and diseases are some of the most common ailments in domestic cats. Sometimes the symptoms of these conditions are obvious, and other times they are easily overlooked — meaning the cat goes without treatment for longer than is ideal.

As a cat owner, it is important that you know the basics regarding common urinary tract ailments, their symptoms and how to protect your cat. Here’s a closer look.

Common Urinary Tract Ailments

Urinary tract conditions in cats are often referred to collectively as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, or FLUTD. There are several separate but related conditions that fall under the FLUTD umbrella.

Bladder Stones

In your cat’s bladder, minerals may build up and form hard balls. Known as bladder stones, these mineral deposits can then move into the urethra, making it difficult for your cat to urinate. In the most serious of cases, they completely block the urethra and may cause bladder rupture, or cardiac arrest.

Urinary Tract Infections

Bacterial infections of the urethra and bladder are also quite common in cats. There are a number of bacteria that may cause the infection, including E. coli, Staphylococcus species, Streptococcus species and even Chlamydia. The bacteria are introduced into the urethra from the outside world and then move up into the body.

Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is any inflammation of the bladder with an unknown cause. Researchers surmise that it is brought on by stress, but abnormalities in the endocrine and cardiovascular system may also contribute to its development.

Cats can also develop kidney diseases, including kidney stones and kidney infections. These fall outside the umbrella of FLUTD because the kidneys are considered a part of the upper urinary tract. Infections may begin in the lower urinary tract and move up into the kidneys. It’s also common for stones to form in the kidneys and pass on through the bladder and urethra where they cause additional symptoms.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Diseases

All urinary tract diseases tend to have similar symptoms. If you notice these symptoms, it is important to take your cat to the vet for diagnosis rather than guessing which ailment is to blame.

Difficulty Urinating

Cats with urinary tract diseases often appear as though they are straining to urinate. Your cat may even yowl in pain as they urinate. This can be a medical emergency and needs to be addressed right away. You may also notice that your cat takes breaks from urinating to lick their penile or vaginal area.

Changes in Urination Habits

One of the most overlooked signs of urinary tract disease is urinating outside the litter box. Owners assume that their cat is misbehaving or that the litter box is dirty, but in reality, the cat has a sense of urgency and cannot make it to the litter box in time.

The urinary tract disease may also make it painful for them to jump into the litter box, so they prefer to urinate elsewhere. Frequently passing small amounts of urine is another common symptom of urinary tract disease.

Bloody Urine

Blood in the urine may go overlooked unless the amount is substantial. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on what you remove from the litter box. If you notice any specks of red, it’s time to visit the vet.

General Behavioral Changes

If your cat has a urinary tract disease, you may notice that they no longer enjoy belly rubs, they become increasingly standoffish or they appear lazy and lethargic. Some cats also begin vomiting in response to a urinary tract infection or kidney disease.

Risk Factors for Urinary Tract Disease

Urinary tract diseases can affect cats of any age and background, but there are some cats at an increased risk for these ailments. Diabetic cats have a greater risk of urinary tract problems due to the sugar that is filtered out by the kidneys and passed out in the urine.

If your cat has been diagnosed with an endocrine disease, such as hypothyroidism, you should also be on the lookout for signs of urinary tract diseases. Male cats are at a higher risk for urinary tract blockages because their urethras are narrower. The risk of urinary tract diseases also increases with age.

Ways to Promote Urinary Tract Health

There are a few ways you can help keep your cat’s urinary tract healthy. Make sure your cat always has fresh, palatable water available. If your cat does not like drinking from a bowl, consider investing in a fountain-style water dispenser — many cats drink more when the water is flowing.

Try to keep your cat’s stress levels low by providing a safe haven away from other pets and giving them plenty of attention when you’re home. If your cat is at an increased risk of urinary tract disease or has been diagnosed in the past, your vet may recommend feeding them a specialized diet designed for urinary tract health.

If you think your cat may be suffering from a urinary tract disease, give 1st Pet Veterinary Centers a call. We can conduct a series of tests to diagnose the specific disease at fault and can then recommend the best treatment for your pet. Most urinary tract diseases are easily treatable, but it’s important to act quickly so your cat does not continue to suffer.